There haven't been many Epic Store exclusivity announcements recently, which got me wondering if Epic might be winding down that part of its strategy. Nope. According to Epic, the opposite is the case.
"We have more exclusives coming in the next two years than we have published to date," a company representative told PC Gamer when asked about its exclusivity strategy for the near future.
There goes my theory.
If you just look at the numbers, though, things have quieted down recently. By my count, there are currently around 21 unreleased Epic exclusives ahead of us, and I'm guessing about some of them. That's not very many considering that over 100 exclusives have released on the store over the past two years. Of those, a little under half released long enough ago that their exclusivity contracts have expired, and they're now available on Steam. That includes games such as Metro Exodus, Borderlands 3, Control, The Outer Worlds, and Hades.
Consider my numbers to be estimates, because they're based on a manual count and a little speculation. There'll also be different opinions about what counts as an "exclusive." I've included any game that released on the Epic Store but not Steam, whether or not a reason was given, and whether or not the game released on other, non-Steam stores. Here's what I came up with:
|Games you can buy on the Epic Store, but not Steam*||Games that were Epic exclusives, but are now on Steam, too||Unreleased Epic Store exclusives**|
*Excludes games made by Epic itself (Fortnite, Unreal Tournament).
**Includes games that will also release on Ubisoft or Microsoft's stores, and assumes that Epic-published games will be exclusives.
With those numbers is mind, you can see why I suspected that Epic had stopped acquiring exclusives as aggressively as it had in 2019 and early 2020. Epic says that isn't the case, though, which suggests that there are a lot of upcoming games we don't know about yet.
What upcoming exclusives do we know about?
Here are the 21 yet-to-release Epic Store exclusives I counted:
|Chivalry 2||One-year timed exclusive|
|Kena: Bridge of Spirits||Timed exclusive|
|Darkest Dungeon 2||Exclusive until end of Early Access|
|Unexplored 2: The Wayfarer's Legacy||One-year timed exclusive|
|Solar Ash||Timed exclusive, as far as we know|
|The Eternal Cylinder||Epic Store exclusive "at launch"|
|Monkey Barrels||No word on a Steam release|
|Saturnalia||No word on a Steam release|
|Oddworld: Soulstorm||No word on a Steam release|
|The Wolf Among Us 2||No word on a Steam release|
|Jett: The Far Shore||No word on a Steam release|
|Vampire: The Masquerade - Swansong||Bloodlines 2 won't be exclusive, though|
|Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remake||Also on the Ubisoft Store|
|Far Cry 6||Also on the Ubisoft Store|
|Rainbow Six Quarantine||Also on the Ubisoft Store|
|The Settlers||Also on the Ubisoft Store|
|Riders Republic||Also on the Ubisoft Store|
|Future Remedy game #1||Epic Games is publishing|
|Future Remedy game #2||Epic Games is publishing|
|Future Playdead game||Epic Games is publishing|
|Future genDesign game||Epic Games is publishing|
Right now, Ubisoft is the biggest single source of future Epic Store exclusives, though it's probably more accurate to label them "semi-exclusives." Since 2019, Ubisoft has been releasing most of its new PC games on the Epic Games Store and the Ubisoft Store (formerly known as Uplay), but not on Steam. The company hasn't said that these games won't ever appear on Steam, but hasn't announced Steam release dates either. You can bet that the next Assassin's Creed will release on the Epic Store, too, although I didn't include it in this list. That game will likely be out in 2022.
Even further out than the next Assassin's Creed—probably, at least—are the untitled games I included from Remedy Entertainment (Alan Wake, Control), Playdead (Limbo, Inside), and genDesign (The Last Guardian). These games are being funded by Epic itself under the new publishing wing it announced last year, and I'm making the fairly safe assumption that games published by Epic will be Epic Store exclusives on PC. (Remedy said that Epic is publishing its "next two unannounced video games," so I dropped it in twice.)
Outside of Ubisoft and Epic, the upcoming exclusive list is pretty modest. Darkest Dungeon 2 will only be there until it's out of early access. Chivalry 2 may be the next biggest game on the list, and like most Epic exclusives, it'll only stay exclusive for a year. Things are so quiet that I was genuinely surprised when Epic told me that it plans to increase the rate of exclusive releases over the next couple years.
In 2019, Epic Games Store head Steve Allison said that the company wouldn't necessarily chase exclusivity deals forever, and that it could one day stop altogether, or go to having "very, very few" exclusives per year. Along with giving away free games every week (a program that'll continue throughout 2021), exclusives have been a way for Epic to attract new customers who would otherwise stick to Steam—an entry plan, but not necessarily a forever strategy. For now, that entry plan remains in full effect, and will clearly stay that way for the foreseeable future.
So, how's it going? Well, Epic says that it sold $265 million worth of third-party games on the Epic Store in 2020. Compared to a couple years ago, when Epic didn't have a PC game store at all, that's a huge increase. Compared to 2019, however, it's an increase of around 5.6 percent—Epic Store users spent $251 million on third-party games that year, which was store's first full year of existence. (These revenue numbers ignore the cost of coupons and advance payments to developers, which is how Epic secures exclusives.)
Right now, though, Epic is all about getting more people onto its platform, not making money—Fortnite covers that—and in that regard things appear to be going very well. Epic says that it attracted 56 million monthly active users in December 2020, up from 32 million at the end of 2019, which is a 75 percent increase. Steam last reported 120M monthly active users, so it's still much bigger, but there's no indication that Epic has hit a ceiling.
When I got in touch, Epic also reiterated that it plans to provide self-publishing tools to make the Epic Games Store more accessible to new developers before the end of the year. "Our investment into content is going to continue and multiply as we work toward an open store and launch even more platform features," the company said.